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Emmissary to Black People, Rand Paul, has taken time off of his busy schedule of badly explaining Civil Rights to students at HBCU's to engage with the War on Women critique leveled at Republicans by Democrats on Meet the Press. And surprise, surprise, turns out he doesn't know what all the hubbub is about. But I'll let the Senator explain Slate has the transcript:

Well, you know, I think we have a lot of debates in Washington that get dumbed down and are used for political purposes.  This whole sort of war on women thing, I'm scratching my head because if there was a war on women, I think they won.  You know, the women in my family are incredibly successful.

I have a niece at Cornell vet school, and 85% of the young people there are women.  In law school, 60% are women; in med school, 55%.  My younger sister's an ob-gyn with six kids and doing great.  You know, I don't see so much that women are downtrodden; I see women rising up and doing great things. And, in fact, I worry about our young men sometimes because I think the women really are out-competing the men in our world.

Oh boy. We've seen this song and dance before. Let's call this the Republican empathy deficit. Remember, when Senator Rob Portman came out for marriage equality after his son came out? It's like wow, I'd hate to have my son discriminated against. Sometimes I think the only way to make something matter to these guys is for an issue to affect them personally. Otherwise you're SOL. And it's a similar situation here. War? What war? All the women in my family are doing great.  Here's the thing, the War on Women meme was never about representation in higher education. We'll come back to that later though. Nor was it about specific women doing well in one well-connected family that sports not one but two recent/current members of Congress. It started out about the Republican insistence on re-fighting the culture wars from the 1970's.

Remember the record number of abortion restriction enacted by State Legislatures starting in 2011?  How about the Republicans in Congress threatening to shut down the government over funding to Planned Parenthood.Maybe it was the Republican nominee promising to appoint justices to the Supreme Court specifically to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Or the personhood bills sponsored by the Republican Vice Presidential candidate, which would make most forms of hormonal birth control illegal. Then there was the spate of forced tranvaginal ultrasounds bills for women seeking abortions. Because you know, why not add an expensive and medically unnecessary procedure to the festivities? So yeah, what war indeed. And I haven't even gotten to legitimate rape. For a war that you don't believe is even happening, there sure do seem to be a lot of battles being waged. Are the first two rules on the War on Women similar to the rules on Fight Club? Are we not supposed to talk about it?

For the sake of argument, let's take up Sen. Paul on his higher education point. I'm not really sure where he's pulling his numbers from, but men and woman are basically on par when it comes to medical education currently. At least according to Kaiser Family Foundation. The 2011 class was approximately 51.6% male and 48.4% female. However, despite the great strides women have made in higher education, they're still paid less than men. According to the U.S Census Bureau, women are paid an average of 77 cents to every dollar a man makes. But let's take Senator's Paul's stats at face value. Let's say that women make up the majority of lawyers graduating from Law School. Certainly if more women are graduating with these prestigious law degrees, they must make up the majority of the partnership ranks. Let's see what the Legal Newsroom of Lexis Nexis has to say about that:

Women largely remain ghettoized in the lower positions in the legal profession: women comprise 45 percent of law firm associates but among equity partners in the AmLaw 200, they are only 6 percent. In other words, women are putting in the work, but not reaping the ultimate benefits of the firm hierarchy.

Hmm, that didn't go so well. But the legal profession is such an old boys' club. Let's try the hard science of the medical profession. Surely science based professions are purely merit based. With women making up about 50% of the graduating class in 2011, there has to be parity in the ranks of medical professors right? Let's see what the Association of American Medical Colleges has to say about that:

Of note, 37 percent of full-time medical school faculty are women, which is up from 29 percent in 2001. Despite the fact that the percentage of women medical school faculty has increased over time, women remain underrepresented in the ranks of assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor.

So despite the fact that women making up majorities of graduates in the fields of medicine and the practice of law, they can't seem to break into the upper echelons of power in either field. It's almost like there's this barrier above them that's as transparent as it is impregnable. I wish there was a catchy phrase for it. You know, I'm beginning to think there may be something structural going here. The Senator's statistics actually illustrate how serious the problem actually is. A decade or two ago people might have tried to explain away the gender gap by extolling the virtues or men's superior education. Today women are kicking men's butts in terms of higher education. So what's the excuse now?

Honestly, who cares about the War on Women at the top-level where medical and legal professionals have salaries that start in the six figure category? That's where the Senator wants to take us. But this game isn't only played at the elite levels of the Paul dynasty. At the middle class level, there are women like Lilly Ledbetter, who sued her company when she found out that men in her company were being paid more for doing the exact same job. So when legislation is introduced to fix the problem like say the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and the Republicans line up in droves to oppose it, including Republican women, well you've just participated in the War on Women. To be fair, Senator Paul wasn't in the Senate at the time of the vote. But his record on any sort of business regulation is quite clear. After all, his father didn't name him Rand for nothing. But I digress.

At the blue-collar level we have the vast majority of Americans wanting to see the minimum wage raised. A wage I might add that disproportionately affects women. But the Republicans in Congress refuse to even let it come up for a vote. Sorry boys, but you have once again put yourself on the wrong side of the War on Women. And if you want to vote for to repeal Obamacare for the 50th time or whatever number they're up to, guess what you just did? Sad day for you, because Obamacare stops insurance companies from charging women more for coverage and makes it illegal to kick women off of their insurance because of pre-existing conditions like pregnancies or being victims of domestic abuse and/or sexual assault. Speaking of domestic abuse, guess who was one of the Senators who voted to block the Violence Against Women Act? That would be none other than Rand Paul.

We could keep going into the systemic weeds here, from deep-rooted and hugely important missing support around education, childcare and elder care, the dearth of social and financial support for new mothers, etc., or we could highlight the Onion-esque anecdotes that grace our news feeds about judges siding with employers who fire employees for being "too attractive." But the gist is that even as women have come a long way in the past 50 years, U.S. policy still has its own long path to run before it can catch up.

With that in mind, I can never quite tell if these guys actually believe this stuff or are just saying it political effect. But my suggestion is, rather than trying to ignore the problem, ostrich style, they might want to do something about it. Of course that will never happen, because in practice they are totally fine with these inequities. More than that -- not only do they have zero in terms of policy for addressing these issues, they're also actively stymying efforts to fix them.

So the next time Senator Paul wonders, "what war?", the appropriate response is the biggest roll of the eyes humanly possible.

Originally posted to The Non Blogosphere on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 09:20 AM PST.

Also republished by This Week in the War on Women, Feminism, Pro-Feminism, Womanism: Feminist Issues, Ideas, & Activism, and Community Spotlight.

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